Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rewriting History?

Modi government has created a specialist committee to rewrite Indian history. The clear-cut agenda (or mission) of this committee, rather of the Modi government, is to establish the Hinduness of India through the ages, rather to prove that Indian history is essentially and actually Hindu history.

There are sections who are condemning this move, alleging the government of distorting history and making it suitable to achieve their long-term goal of establishing Hinduness of India. I am no-one to comment whether it is right or wrong; but is it wrong for the Hindus to be or feel proud of their rich past, and realign their present existence on the goodness of their past? I think every identity has its own right to strengthen its own stand. After all, we exist by identifying ourselves with some entity or the other. What is wrong if that entity is Hindu?

There is another aspect to this: the committee is supposed to use archaeological evidence and DNA samples to prove that Indian history is Hindu history. Now, here is when the ethical question comes. Is the Hidu past is a predefined conclusion? If yes, then this approach of Modi government is unscientific. No research based on material evidence and scientific samples can be predecided. One can only hypothesize before embarking on a research; conclusions will be arrived at only post research. If at all the results are predecided, as is evident in this case, I must conclude that this move of Modi government is purely propagandist and is driven by its vision and mission. Is, then, archaeology going to be a scapegoat? I believe it is!

Let sanity prevail. Let us discuss true history.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Periodization: a peep into the concept of medieval history in the context of India and Assam

In an article published in The Medieval History Journal in 1998 - in fact the first issue of the journal - Harbans Mukhia raised an important question of the nomenclature of the medieval period of Indian history. Mukhia questions the very basic idea of dividing the ancient from the medieval based on the beginning of the Muslim Sultanate in Delhi. In his discussions, he also questions the Tripartite division of Indian history, as was done by James Mill in 1818, when he divided it into Hindu, muslim and British period. Mill's periodization was, as obvious, influenced by the Company's ambitions and ideology. But this tripartite division was again replaced by the nationalist historians to Ancient, Medieval, and Modern; however maintaining more or less the same formula that Mills used.

This standard periodization of Indian history has been followed by later historians, without much questioning though, to describe the dynastic history of India. However, historians have, only recently, tried to view the cultural history of various regions of India from a structuralist point of view, and while doing so, have confronted many pertinent questions, mostly arising out of the periodization of the historical phase. It may be because the periodization, as was done by early nationalist historians, was mostly based on the dynastic histories, which were nothing but mere recording of royal achievements, and thus viewed a specific point of time in its particular spatial and temporal parameters only. The question of continuity of a culture was not present and so different periods of history was considered having altogether different traits and socio-political dimesions. This is where Mukhia explains that the dividing line between ancient and medieval was largely influenced by the point of view of Muslim historiography and the concept of dividing the world history into one before Islam and the rest after the coming of Islam. Indian medieval history has largely been reconstructed from the numerous Persian and Arabic histories or chronicles, written by court historians of the Muslim dynasties, and most of them followed the hijri era for narration, perhaps with the only exception being Abul Fazl, who based his Akbarnama on a new solar calender introduced by the Din-e-ilahi sect of Akbar. The hegemony of Muslim historiography is obviously present in defining the medieval period of Indian history.

Coming to the question that needs focus here: looking at the various other dimensions through which history is being studied at present, is it viable or appropriate to still resort to the standard periodisation any more?

Let us see what implications the tripartite periodization may have in the history of Assam, which is yet again studied as per the standard classification. In case of Assam, though, historians are bound to begin the ancient period from 4th century only, mainly for want of written evidence; the earliest mention of Assam (Kamarupa) coming from the Allahabad Prasasti of Samudragupta. Some historians have tried to connect the myths of Narakasura and Bhagadatta with the history of Assam and thus take the earliest dates back to the 5th-6th centuries BC. This school of thought have found limited response though in academic circles. But most historians have unanimously agreed upon the beginning of the medieval period to be with the arrival of the Ahoms in Assam, i.e. from the early part of the 13th century. The modern period of Assam's history, as per the standard classification, begins with the arrival of the British in the early 19th century, characterized by the beginning of tea cultivation and arrival of tea garden labourers from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh regions.

The periodization in case of Assam history, as can be seen in the Indian history, is also marred in bias of a certain kind. Leaving aside the ancient period, as it is not yet fully understood or constructed, the narration of medieval period is heavily influenced by the Ahom hiostoriography, somewhat similar to the Muslim historiography. The ahoms also had the practice of writing down important political events and thus have left us with a number of chronicles, locally known as buranji. The buranjis are, though important documents, written with the Ahom worldview and record the events associated with dynastic achievements, and thus throw little light on the socio-cultural composition of the then society. Historians from Assam have explained this whole period from an Ahom point of view so far, and the important roles that the Koch and the Kachari kingdoms played through the medieval period are often ignored. It is somewhat similar like explaining the medieval period of Indian history as "Muslim" period, itself a biased view to describe history.

The question is whether it is necessary to follow a certain periodisation while describing the socio-cultural history of a region, whether it is proper to use terms such as ancient and medieval or modern to describe the cultural development of a society. Culture, when viewed as a continuous process of development, does not follow a specific ideological boundary, boundaries which perhaps can explain the differences between two dynastic rules, as has been done in the case of medieval period. Perhaps the standard periodization will be applicable when we explain the dynastic classification. But for a socio-cultural history, such divisions become vague, as cultural development cannot be defined in terms of dynastic rules or ideological boundaries, for that matter. When I say ideologies, I basically mean dynastic ideologies and worldview.

The term medieval itself is a derivation of the colonialists' worldview, and has been often used in the case of European history. Everything falling within the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the beginning of rennaissance and the consequent industrial revolution was termed medieval. In case of Indian history, everything before the arrival of the British, and thus "civilization", has been termed medieval. The nationalist historians, on the other hand, considered everything Muslim as medieval. In the case of Assam, the term "medieval" has been used to denote the Ahom period only to give a pan-indian viewpoint to this specific period. Historians have simply followed the standard Indian classification without even giving proper thought to the aspects that could possibly define this period. The fall of the Kamarupa kingdom and the rise of the Ahoms, although an important dynastic change, would not have been so significant a event that would change the socio-economic situation of Assam. Moreover, the formation of the Ahom dynasty was also a slow process that and happened through a long period of cultural amalgamation of the Ahoms with the rest. The political integration came through a socio-cultural integration process. Hence, this classification needs serious reconsideration, looking at the many dimensions through which history can be explained. Medieval simply seems a medieval term!

Looking at the present social composition of Assam, it seems appropriate to decsribe the history of Assam as one single entity, without any well-defined boundaries between periods and phases. It can simply be termed as "the historical phase", although with certain important intervening phases.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The politics of language standardization: the case of a fragmented Assamese society

The concept of cultural hegemony was theorised by Antonio Gramsci when he emphasized the dominence of one community over a certain geographical region over others - although not direct but influential - by means of political control or in cultural terms. Cultural hegemonization always needs a catalyst, i.e. language or lingua franca to be more specific. When the Indian state was formed, it was conceived as a federal democratic country where staes were given a lot of governance power. These states were formed on the basis of language boundaries: Tamil Nadu thus included the territory in which Tamil speaking people formed the majority population, Gujarat in a similar way consisted of Gujarati-speaking majority, so and so forth. Assam was probably the only state of India which was formed without giving much significance to the official language, the reason being that although Assamese had constitutional acceptance of being a major Indian language, in the general perception of the rest of India, particularly among the Bengalis, it was merely an offshoot of Bengali. Hence even after having official recognition, Assamese youth had to come up with two consecutive movements - the Bhaxa Andolan (language movement) and the Madhyam Andolan (medium movement) - and sacrifice lives to finally get Assamese language a rather practical acceptance in government documents and dealings, somehow managing to overthrow a rather unwelcome hegemony of the Bengali language over the local tongue, finally! These two movements proved to be crucial for the subsequent uprisings during the Assam movements and the militant 'nationalist' propaganda of the ULFA. Most importantly, such an Assamese 'nationalist' sentiment spread among the entire population living in the Brahmaputra valley irrespective of community and dialects. Whether such a scenarion was good for a marginal society like the Assamese is a debatable issue, but it did not last long among the Assamese.

By the 1970s, Assamese language became in true sense the lingua franca of the entire northeast region of India. Almost all the states barring Tripura could and did use Assamese as the language for communication. But this supremacy of Assamese was short-lived as gradually the other northeastern states adopted either Hindi or English for communication. Even fraction started within the greater Assamese society; the Bodos branched out and even changed their script to devnagri from Assamese. The situation at present is worse; the Bodos to a large extent do not even identify themselves as Assamese, but with an independent Bodo identity. This trend is more visible aong the younger higher educated generation of Bodos. It is not my aim here to judge what is right or wrong. My only aim is to provide a prelude to a much more complex and intriguing problem of the Assamese as a community or a group of communities, a problem within the Assamese which has deep historical roots. This is rooted in the the culturally divisive, fragmentary nature of the Assamese. There has been umpteen attepts to bring the diverse communities of Assam under one unified roof, be it the religio-cultural movement initiated by Sankardev in the 15thcentury or the neo-literature movement of early 20th century, of which Lakhminath Bezbaruah was the most notable figure. However, none of these movements could complete the process of unification and present a greater singular identity of the Assamese. Has the hegemonization theory propounded by Gramsci failed in Assam?

There is another serious problem, that is of divisions within the Assamese society as far as language is concerned. The simplest and rudest manifestation of this can be seen in the hostels of the two main state universities of Assam - Gauhati university and Dibrugarh university. Guwahati and Dibrugarh respectively relate to the lower and upper Assam regions, the two 'distinct' regions of Assam which were not unified until the battle of Saraighat in the 17th century. The two regions had distinctly different land system, which eventually resulted in different economico-social scenario and culture. This difference can even be seen in the food habits, settlement patterns, and language (dialectical difference though). This division between the two region is expressed, sometimes in extreme forms, in the hostels of the two universities, where students form lobbies in terms of language affinities and disregard the existence of a 'different' assamese language, and this happens vice versa. Although difficult to believe, this tension between the two goes to the level of physical clashes. This cold war between the 'lower Assam language' and the 'upper Assam language' can even be seen among the mature lot, especially people working in government offices and other noted private and corporate bodies. It is sad to see that people from the two regions do not usually mingle with each other, and it goes to the level of hatred when in a joint circle.

Although this obvious difference is often not discussed in the learned circles, while in the entertainment sector this has been used as comic relief, the ordinary people is not immune to it. The people of upper Assam take pride in their form of the Assamese language to be the standard tongue which has been used in the literature, although with grammatical modifications, and use derogatory remarks for the people of lower Assam, the most common of thembeing 'dhekeri', a term which was originally the name of a certain area in Kamrup district in the medieval period but has now become synonymous with lower Assam people speaking the 'rude' version of Assamese. The people from the lower Assam, on the otherhand, have developed a sense of low esteem and inferiority complex and have tried to immitate the upper Assam tongue which has often resulted in disastrous use of the language. This inferiority complex in a way has developed a sense of distrust among the people towards the upper Assam people. This difference is spread across the whole of Assamese society to the minutest levels.

Lack of historical knowledge and even lack of interest in the past can be one reason why the Assamese society keeps on repeating the same mistakes again and again, and never gets united. The history that is told to students in schools and colleges is also biased and represents the viewpoint of the contemporary dominent group. For example, the medieval period of Assam has often been considered to be belonging to the Ahoms and it has been repeatedly emphasized that it was but for the Ahoms that the Assamese society has attained the present state of being; thus the role of the Koch and the Kachari kingdoms get neglected. The history of Assam has often been misrepresented and that needs serious reconsideration. Now. Likewise, the history of the formation of the Assamese language, vis-a-vis its standardization, is one aspect which has rarely been scientifically analysed.

The role of Axomiya Bhaxa Unnati Sadhini Sabha (an organization for the development of Assamese language), founded in 1988 is worth mentioning. The establishment of this organization is often said to be 'a landmark in the history of Assamese language and literature'. Among its most important projects was the standardization of the Assamese language, which it planned to do by removing some grammatical and orthographic anomalies and introducing some appropriate new words. Although language standardization was not a concerted approach at the beginning, by the late 19th century the Assamese spoken in upper Assam - the centre of the more powerful Ahom kingdom - was becoming accepted as standard modern Assamese. A certain bias of the then Assamese scholarly people can be surely seen here, as although not often mentioned most of the scholarly people belonged to that region only. The language of lower Assam was gradually being considered as outdated and rude. What was the scene prior to this process of standardization? - a question which has been thoroughly avoided by even modern scholars.

Banikanta Kakati, who has produced perhaps the most important work on the construction of Assamese language, takes a more scientific and liberal view on this; perhaps because he belonged tolower Assam region. He while emphasizing the role of Srimanta Sankardeva in the development of Assamese culture and literature points out that the royal patronage that the vaisnava guru required for peacefully propagating what he preached actually came from the Koch king Naranarayan, whose capital was in the lower Assam region bordering Bengal. He specifically points out that the patronization of Assamese language and literature did not come from the 'mainland' Assam (he probably meant upper assam), but from Koch Behar.

The above scenarion as reflected in the medieval period continued till the early 19th century, when the British settled down mostly in the upper Assam region and gradually started influencing the Assamese learned lot. Prior to this, Assam was mostly identified with Kamrup and the standard language was considered to be Kamarupi. All the other dialects spoken in the region such as Rajbongshi, Goalporia, and West Bengali has close affinity with Kamarupi. In upper Assam, there existed several Tibeto-Burmese languages along with Assamese and it is difficult to point out which was more dominent over the others.

Although the standardization process of Assamese started in the early 19th century, it never became totally accepted by the tribal groups of Assam. Gradually several tribal groups started finding sub-national identities through a process of reviving their own languages. As this revivalism started getting more acceptance, the strenghth of Assamese language as a binding force began to reduce and petty nationalism and segragation movements started taking place.
The present fragmented Assamese society and the failure of the political parties to unite the many communities of Assam can be attributed to the failure of Assamese language in becoming a singular, strong lingua franca of the entire region. This needs serious rethinking.

The weakening of the language led to a signicant drop in literature and readership in Assamese. Influences of other Indian languages has also corrupted the current form of Assamese language, both spoken and written. And there are very few who have actually spoken in open about it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


In memory of Hiruda...inspired by his poem "mrityuoto eta silpa"...

Death's an art!

Carved on the plutonic bands of the gneiss,
Weathered by the prehistoric waters of the creek,
Metamorphosed through hominoid touches through the ages,

Death's the sculpture of life!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The happiness formula

Have I ever tried to categorically enlist the criteria which I would call little pleasures of life? I haven't; moreover I don't have a clear idea about the whole thing. Happiness and pleasure, for me, are purely impulsive emotions. As I am writing this wannabe intellectual note, I am driven by some sort of excitement and a creative exercise! This I will surely categorize as happiness.

Is it possible - or is it good for that matter - to categorize one's happiness formula. I feel it is not bad to self-analyze and self-estimate; although I'll strongly argue against letting such systematization drive your emotions and thus control your doings or undoings. There should be room for impulsiveness and indecisiveness in one's life. One Should have the courage and desire to let one's surroundings control his/her life and thoughts.

I think life is a game of many positives and many negatives. A man should try and experience both aspects of life and learn. Naturalists would say: conscience is what separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom. I would say: it's not only conscience, but the many other associated qualities that come with it - the ability to judge, the ability to learn, and the ever-present quality of making mistakes.

What is  mistake? I personally don't want to think mistake as a social concept; however it is true when we judge ourselves within the parameters of a group entity. There should be scope for a person, even being within the society, to make his own parameters of good and evil, achievements and mistakes. One should be able to complement one's life within himself, too.

Categorization of one's abilities and qualities will help a person remain within a society, but also will help find niche areas where he/she could let go. Impulse and emotion play a major role in this letting go affair. It may lead either to agony or to ecstasy - either way a person will not lose anything. There may be material losses; but the gains will be such that the person will not hesitate to preserve them for the rest of his/her life and cherish them. This is what I believe is the process of learning, and one should not hesitate to indulge in that.

Friday, August 17, 2012

National solidarity questioned

The unprecedented exodus of people of north east India from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, and some other parts of the country, seen in such a large scale only the second time after the Partition, brings in many questions, but only a few solutions. Definitely this is not the solution the NE people are looking for, not the remedy for the growing sense of insecurity that has crept in in their minds, triggered primarily by the hate campaigns against them. The government, at this critical stage, is clueless and has been unable to convince the people about their safety, and that's a shame! Questions have come up, and unfortunately they are many:

1. Who is conspiring the hate campaigns? Is it any political front or party? Is it some regional party from NE itself? Or is it some miscreant, freak who is now simply sitting at the comfort of his home and enjoying the situation? Or is it some fool who spread it without even realizing that the situation would become so serious? Whoever it is, it should be immediately brought into public knowledge. The intelligence has to play a decisive role in this.

2. Why is this hatred after all? Is it simply because the NE people do not look like the rest of the Indians? If that is so, there cannot be more shameful a reason for a country that is aspiring to become a global power and seeks a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Or the hatred is because the NE people have a slightly different lifestyle and standards of moral and social values, which the rest of India cannot identify with? If that is so, then the situation is much more dangerous, and will take atleast another two decades to heal. No government action and regulation can overnight bring this change of understanding. It will take years to revolutionise people's minds. I will come back to this issue later in this note.

3. Are the NE people responsible for such hatred? I would say yes, if being within one's community and not mixing up with others much or rather not trying to interfere with other's affairs much is a crime. I would say yes, if eating nonvegetarian food is a crime. I would say yes, if being well-literate and having an advanced knowledge of the western cultures is a crime!

I remember a dialogue from the movie Swadesh, where Shahrukh Khan argues with villagers that "koi bhi desh mahaan nahi hota, use mahaan banaana padta hai". It's unfortunate but true that india as a society has many evils, which have been recently widely broadcast in Aamir Khan's production "Satyamev Jayate"; I salute Aamir Khan for being brave and coming out and raising his voice against social evils of India such as dowry, marital clashes, women atrocities, alcoholism, infanticide, and many more. Throughout these episodes, one might miss, that went almost unnoticed and not much appreciated, but equally heartening to know, that NE India stood out as a region where most of these social dogmas do not exist at all, barring modern-day evils such as alcoholism and drug addiction! What does it convey? North East lies in the fringes of India, but ask any man from the region about the stories that he has grown up hearing, and you will hear Panchatantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. etc. It's the same cultural traits that runs through the region, it's the same moral values that the people percieves there, but with varying degrees.

India will measurably fail as a federal democracy if each and every region within its politico-cultural periphery is not provided with the same amount of importance or attention. Thee will be cultural and ethical differences among various regions that will lead to sudden and terrifying culture shocks to different people at different regions. This will prompt people to become more regionalistic, more separatist, more self-concerned. The unity of the country will be gone and there will be no slogan such as "unity in diversity".

I may be pessimistic in presenting a sorry situation, but it won't take long to become a reality if right measures are not taken immediately to remedy it. The majority of India does not live in cities and metros, but in villages, and villages are where moral and ethical values of a largely agricultural country like India grow. The central as well as the state governments look at the progressive India from an urban point of view, and the aspirations of becoming a modern advanced nation and a world power is an urban middle-class dream; the rural India is largely concerned about livelihood. It's high time our intellectuals, our politicians, our media understand what real India comprises of and try and nourish a new, modern social and moral ethics of India, the roots of which runs through the veins of the rural. India needs to change, and drastically.

India's education system since Independance has failed measurably to bring solidarity of the country. For example, take a social studies textbook of any of the education boards that runs schools in our country. There will not be a chapter on the history, culture, geography, industry, and the people of NE India. NE India is still not part of the pan-India concept, and is referred to as "our brothers and sisters". Why not the "our" incorporate the NE people also, why should they be brothers and sisters only? All the education commissions of Govt of India have maintained a policy of alienation while developing a national curriculla, be it primary, elementary, or higher education. Ask an average Indian student about a single martyr from NE India who sacrificed his/her life in the struggle for India's independance, he will not be able to recollect; ask how many times the mighty Mughals invaded Assam and how many times they were repulsed and by which Assamese hero, he will not be able to answer. Even if you ask a general question like what is the staple food the north easterners and the student will fail to understand, and will wonder what could be the staple food other than roti and vegetable. He will be shocked to know that many of the populations in NE still survive on tubers which has been their staple food since prehistoric times.

These are uncomfortable questions, but are true and need to be answered immediately by various sections. I may have been a little biased in projecting the issue at hand, and may have given the impression that it has been throughout the fault of "pan-India" and north easterners are innocent and are devoid of any social evils. I will be wrong if I have stated so, but highlighting those is not the objective of this note. My only appeal to everyone including the people from North East, in this hour of crisis, is to think of an assimilative, unbiased, open solution, forgetting their micro cultural and social differences, and help build a strong nation, one of solidarity, which can rise to challenges coming from any quarter as a single unit, as one society, as one nation.

Satyameva Jayate!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fear of loss of identity: genesis and continuity of the violent civil war in Assam

When I was growing up in the Assam State Electricity Board's powerhouse township, 12 km from Kokrajhar town, I had little idea that a place as beautiful as this would some day see houses burning and dead bodies lying here and there, totally uncared for, all resulting out of an ethno-political clash between two groups - the Bodos and the non-Bodos, mainly comprising the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. I could never have imagined a community like the Bodos, among who I grew up and with who I have endless fond childhood memories, would someday become as violent as they have turned now; also become as helpless as they have become now. I studied in a school which also had a Bodo medium of instruction till the 10th standard, and I remember as a child speaking Bodo language with those kids and also sing Bodo songs and perform their folk dance. I don't know if all my Bodo childhood friends are still alive! I hope they live healthy!

I believe violence starts with fear: fear of death, fear of loss (of identity), fear coming out of distrust and fear coming out of insecurity. As a child I remember seeing this fear grow, among the Bodos who had already started disbelieving the greater Assamese mentality back then (1980s), which was largely degenerating and separatist - I have never seen an ordinary Assamese speaking person say that the Bodos are our predecessor in this land without adding the tag of 'adivasi' or 'uncivilized'! The Assamese already lost the plot by the 1980s, and could never ever penetrate the land, once they were ousted by the Bodo nationalist movement that started under the banner of ABSU under the leadership of Upen Brahma. This land ceased to be a land for Assamese, it became the land of the Bodos, and the separation of the two identities - the Assamese and the Bodos - was complete, if not politically, culturally for sure. "Bodo Asomiya Bhai Bhai" - the tagline remained only in popular songs, which people listened to only for the sake of the tune, rather than the lyrics!

The Assamese had their own fear of survival, at least in Kokrajhar and other regions where they were the minority. The militant nationalism of the ULFA was at its peak in the 80s and the 90s. I remember people talking about the ULFA only in whispers. One night my mother asked me what would I like to become when I grew up; and I shouted "ULFA"! That night, as mother revealed later, she couldn't sleep, not that she believed me (she would have probably laughed at my naive remark) but because she heard footsteps outside our house immediately after I shouted. This was the fear - not merely a fear of a mother losing her child, but a mother being uncertain and afraid of her son's generation when they grow up. Just imagine a child of 8-9 years getting romantic about an armed struggle against a whole nation! If this can be called the beginning of a culture of violence, then I believe, in Assam, there exists a culture of violence!

The clash of the Assamese identity was against the pan-Indian identity, a fear of survival against a much dominating and discriminating pan-Indian identity. The same fear got percolated to their brothers, the Bodos, but the Assamese failed to realize that they were themselves the reasons for the other's fear. Agonizingly the Bengalis, the second most dominating group in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon after the Bodos, played the Shakuni mama's role, by showing their full-fledged support to the Bodos against the Assamese. But they also had to face the same wrath ten years later.

The Bodos got constitutional autonomy after years of struggle, but lost peace and simplicity, which have been the backbone of their cultural identity through the ages. So, will I be wrong in believing that in order to achieve one form of identity, they have lost another, most important, form of identity? So, where is the justification of such a struggle? Unfortunately the struggle continues, because the fear continues; only the source of the fear is different every time. The Assamese and the Bengalis from north Bengal are no longer there in the scene, the new players are the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and almost in the entirety belonging to the Muslim faith.

As long as my understanding goes, the Bangladeshis are relatively new entrant in the social scenario of the Bodoland, especially in the northern bank of the Brahmaputra. At least in Kokrajhar district, there have never been a major community of Bangladeshi muslims; most of them may have migrated there in the last ten years or so! Is it possible for the Bodos, then, to have a fear of survival against them? Possibly no! The fear of survival will be definitely of the minority, that is the migrants! So, is it a kind of a superiority feleling of the Bodos, something similar that the Assamese had over the Bodos in the 80s and the 90s? It is a possibility, but only at a minuscule level! Is a culture of violence, then, responsible for this? It plays a major role; however that is not everything behind the scene.

The nature of the latest violence and the ethno-communal war has a more deep-rooted economico-political cause, the consequences of which will be far more dangerous and long-lasting and further more harmful for the Bodos whose original homeland is the land. No sensible person can deny that there has been gradually a change in a approach and group behaviour of the illegal immigrants over the last ten years. They are constitutionally protected by the IMDT act and they form a huge "ghost" vote bank of the ruling Congress government. They are protected, and this feeling of protection has brought in a certain kind of aggression in their social behaviour, in their interactions with other communities. The "legal" inhabitants are not yet ready to accept this newfound confidence among the Bangladeshis. Moreover, since the beginning of the colonial period, East Bengali farmers have been dominating the agricultural sector of the Brahmaputra valley, and now several other professions have become their way of living, by means of adaptation. The "local" population has started feeling deprived, however not realizing that they are only responsible for such deprivation. So, the fear continues, the same fear of survival, although in a new, economic sphere! A historical parellel can definitely be found in the Nazi fear against the jews before the second world war!

I think it is high time the Assam government acknowledges and the central government realizes that "illegal immigration is indeed a problem, and there are at least a crore, or even more, illegal immigrants in Assam. Chief Ministar Tarun Gogoi's constant cynical remarks that there are no Bangladeshis in Assam is actually becoming a joke. There should be no harm in assigning a refugee status to the Bangladeshis. In fact, that will solve many a problem that has already almost broken the backbone of the Assamese society, a society which was peace loving and welcoming until 20 years ago, a society which included each and every community living in the geographical region of the Brahmaputra valley, a society which was probably the only one in India that was given a political status of a state merely on the basis of geographical spheres rather than on linguistic boundaries.

The Assam of my childhood is entirely different from the Assam I see now. Probably the fear that my mother had on that fateful night has come true. Her son's generation, as she feared, is living a culture of violence, unlike the culture of peace that she lived!